They are estimated to be worth Rs. 32 crore
The Central Crime Branch (CCB) arrested three persons and busted an idol smuggling racket on Saturday. Sleuths recovered three idols said to be from the Chola era that are estimated to be worth over Rs 32 crore from the trio.
The arrested — Ravi Sharma (50), Pundalik Kalbhant (28) and Sudhir Shetty (38) — are from Mumbai in Maharashtra and Belgaum. They were caught red-handed while waiting to deliver the idols to a client.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Hemanth Nimbalkar said that the three idols — one of Nataraja (dancing Shiva) and two dancers — are made of Pancha Loha (an alloy of five metals). He said that based on the stance depicted in the idol, they were able to ascertain that the idols belong to the Chola era.
The idols have been sent to the Archaeology Department.
Mr. Nimbalkar said that, based on a tip-off, CCB sleuths approached the trio posing as prospective clients and clinched a deal. The trio are suspected to be part of an international racket. This aspect is being probed, he said.
The trio have been taken into custody for further questioning to ascertain the source of the idols.
March 2014: The Sampangiramanagar police arrested Prabhakar from R.T. Nagar and recovered antique idols of Venugopalaswamy weighing 25 kg and worth Rs. 2.5 crore that he was trying to sell online. Prabhakar claimed to have got the idol from his associate Palani Chetty from Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu.
September 2014: The Chamarajpet police arrested Rizwan (21), a fabricator, and his associate Nagraj (28) from Andhra Pradesh while they were trying to sell an antique idol of Krishna at Sirsi Circle. The idol, estimated to be worth around Rs. 75 lakh, was said to be stolen from a temple in Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh.